Sunday, 9 September 2007

Green Woodpecker: general ID

Measurements: Length 31-33 cm. Wingspan 40-42 cm. Thus between the larger Black Woodpecker and smaller Grey-headed and White-backed Woodpeckers in size. The nominate race viridis is described here: a stocky, heavy looking woodpecker closely related to Grey-headed though some 20-25% larger. Upper body colour is various shades of green with a yellow rump which is especially prominent in flight. Both sexes have a full, bright crimson crown from the forehead to the nape, sometimes flecked with grey, and a black orbital mask. Ear-coverts, sides of neck and border of red nape cream, tinged with yellow. Cheeks grey or dirty white, often with washed out greenish tone. Chin and throat white, sometimes with hint of lime. Breast, belly and flanks pale, from off-white to dusky grey, sometimes with yellowish tones. Flanks sometimes lightly barred or dotted with grey-olive-green. Dusky ventral area and upwards to lower flanks and lower belly mottled with grey-green-brown chevrons or bars. Mantle, upper back, scapulars and tertials light green. Rump and upper-tail coverts bright yellow in fresh plumage, duller, olive, when worn. Inner tail feathers black with green edges and dotted with buff-white spots. Under-tail more spotted than upper. Outer tail feathers greener with dusky barring. Outermost rectrix is black and green. Brown-blackish primaries dotted with creamy white. Secondaries dark green speckled with faint white dots. Under-wing coverts and auxiliaries are green-yellow, with some faint grey bars. Has an impressive long, dagger shaped bill, broad across the nostrils and with gently curved culmen. Bill comprises over 50% of total skull length. The bill is mostly grey in colour with the base of the lower mandible being paler. The legs and feet are grey. The iris is white, sometimes pinkish and sometimes with a thin pink outer ring, and stands out within the black face. Photo above taken near Leipzig, Germany (Thomas Kraft). Camouflage is not something often associated with woodpeckers, but as can be seen here the green plumage of this male Green Woodpecker allows the bird to blend into the grass when feeding. A useful aid against aerial predators such as hawks. The bird is also in a crouched defensive pose.

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